IBM founder Tom Watson famously said, "if you want to succeed faster, make more mistakes."
I believe we learn from everything and as a general rule i don't have regrets in life. But it is also useful to acknowledge some decisions that you would have made differently. It's only on reflection of these that i think you can avoid making similar poor decisions in the future.
Here are some of mine with my business Goodordering that i started in 2012 with hardly any business knowledge. Of course there are lessons that come out of each of these mistakes and i definitely have learnt a good few lessons over the last 8 years of running my business.
Wasting time getting into department stores and certain retail outlets.
A classic case of ego leading logic. Back in 2014 i spent a lot of money, time and energy trying to get my bags into some larger department stores. It was a challenge and it was lead by my ego. After having got my bags in, it turned out that they didn't sell as fast as was required by the department store and i was promptly and heartlessly told to buy back my stock. I had spent money on developing specific products for them and still have some surplus stock of these add on items they requested sitting in my warehouse 6 years later!
Opening a shop and paying rent when the business wasn't ready for it.
I did this a couple of times. They were only pop up shops but again my ego and blind optimism got the best of me and i decided to spend a lot of time and money opening a shop. One was in an area where there was hardly any footfall so my calculations of only needing to sell 1-2 bags a day were way too optimistic. The second time i did this, i learnt a lesson and opted for a smaller space inside another shop with good footfall. What i didn't calculate in this situation was that the footfall was pretty much all on a Sunday and having 2 kids and also working on saturday, there was a very low chance i was actually going to work on sunday to take advantage of this footfall.
Not paying for copyright in China in time.
I received a few notices warning me of possible trademark usage in China. At the time my cash flow was poor and i decided to stick my head in the sand and not think about it. A year or so later, i then had to fork out a lot more money after my Trademark was used. It turns out that avoiding the problem would have been a lot cheaper than fixing the problem. Now, i have a trusted trademark legal team here in the UK who have looked forward to sort out trademark issues in different regions. It still costs a lot of money but no where near as much as having to buy back and fight the illegal use of my trademark in China. What i have learnt from this particular mistake is that its timing is everything and acting fast can save a lot of money and hassle.
Charge backs, being too optimistic about fraudulent orders.
If you have any experience with running an e-commerce shop, you will have come across credit card fraud where people order items online, receive them and then charge back for then. Often the card companies favour the customer and there is not much you can do about it. What you can do about it is to refund and not fulfil the orders in the first place. I get these kind of orders about 1-2 a month and sometimes the orders seem genuine and i am very excited about the order so go against the warnings which are blatantly given to me by the back end e-commerce system and decide to over ride it. More often than not, i am wrong and get stung in the bum after a few months. The cost of charge back is more than the transaction itself so its definitely worth just pretending the order never came through and refunding the suspicious buyer!
Selling my bags in Korea without checking local consumer laws
Back in 2016 a fantastic opportunity came up to sell my bags in South Korea. Most of the bags were fine, except for the kids bags which needed to undergo a toxicity test. I didn't know about this test and neither did my customer as she was also new to the business. It was only after i had made and shipped over 500 bags that this news came to light. It was too late to cancel the order with my factory so i needed to get the bags diverted mid-shipping to the UK via Hong Kong rather than to Seoul. This cost a lot of money in itself. Once the bags arrived in the UK i didn't know what to do with so many kids backpacks. I have finally sold them all here in the UK which has different laws, but it was an expensive mistake which could have been avoided.
These are some of the mistakes i have made in the past, i won't make these ones again in a hurry. I could have learnt these from other peeople's experiences and maybe my stories will help you to avoid some of these. I'm sure there are a lot more to be made over the coming years and now i am a lot more attuned to listening to the stories of others.
Wasting time prioritising the wrong things
Opening a shop and having unnecessarily high overheads
Not thinking ahead with regards to legalities
Being too focussed on sales to think about fraudulent transactions.
Not checking local laws
I'd love to hear about some of the business mistakes you have made too!
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